is based upon principles
recognised as sound by the medical profession - so literally true is the Hebrew
proverb that "a merry heart doeth good like a medicine."
"Mirth is God's medicine," said Dr. Wendell Holmes; "everybody ought to
bathe in it. Grim care, moroseness, anxiety, - all the rust of life, - ought to
be scoured off by the oil of mirth." Elsewhere he says: "If you are making
choice of a physician be sure you get one with a cheerful and serene
Is not a jolly physician of greater service than his pills? Dr. Marshall
Hall frequently prescribed "cheerfulness" for his patients, saying that it is
better than anything to be obtained at the apothecary's.
In Western New York, Dr. Burdick was known as the "Laughing Doctor." He
always presented the happiest kind of a face; and his good humour was
contagious. He dealt sparingly in drugs, yet was very successful.
The London "Lancet", the most eminent medical journal in the world, gives
the following scientific testimony to the value of joviality: -
"This power of 'good spirit' is a matter of high moment to the sick and
weakly. To the former, it may mean the ability to survive; to the latter, the
possibility of outliving, or living in spite of, a disease. It is, therefore, of
the greatest importance to cultivate the highest and most buoyant frame of mind,
which the conditions will admit. The same energy, which takes the form of mental
activity, is vital to the work of the organism. Mental influences affect the
system; and a joyous spirit not only relieves pain, but increases the momentum
of life in the body." -
Dr. Ray, Superintendent of Butler Hospital for the Insane, says in one of
his reports, "A hearty laugh is more desirable for mental health than any
exercise of the reasoning faculties."
Grief, anxiety, and fear are great enemies of human life. A depressed,
sour, melancholy soul, a life that has ceased to believe in its own sacredness,
its own power, its own mission, a life which sinks into querulous egotism or
vegetating aimlessness, has become crippled and useless. We should fight against
every influence, which tends to depress the mind, as we would against a
temptation to crime. It is undoubtedly true that, as a rule, the mind has power
to lengthen the period of youthful and mature strength and beauty, preserving
and renewing physical life by a stalwart mental health.
I read the other day of a man in a neighbouring city who was given up to
die; his relatives were sent for, and they watched at his bedside. But an old
acquaintance, who called to see him, assured him smilingly that he was all right
and would soon be well. He talked in such a strain that the sick man was forced
to laugh; and the effort so roused his system that he rallied, and he was soon
Was it not Shakespeare who said that a light heart lives long?
The San Francisco "Argonaut" says that a woman in Milpites, a victim of
almost crushing sorrow, despondency, indigestion, insomnia, and kindred ills,
determined so throw off the gloom which was making life to heavy a burden to
her, and established a rule that she would laugh at least three times a day,
whether occasion was presented or not; so she trained herself to laugh heartily
at the least provocation, and would retire to her room and make merry by
herself. She was soon in excellent health and buoyant spirits; her home became a
sunny, cheerful abode.
It was said, by one who knew this woman well, and who wrote an account of
the case for a popular magazine, that at first her husband and children were
amused at her, and while they respected her determination because of the grief
she bore, they did not enter into the spirit of the plan. "But after awhile,"
said this woman to me, with a smile, only yesterday, "the funny part of the idea
struck my husband, and he began to laugh every time we spoke of it. And when he
came home, he would ask me if I had had my 'regular laughs'; and he would laugh
when he asked the question, and again when I answered it. My children, then very
young, thought 'mamma's notion very queer,' but they laughed at it just the
same. Gradually, my children told other children, and they told their parents.
My husband spoke of it to our friends, and I rarely met one of them but he or
she would laugh and ask me, 'How many of your laughs have you had today?'
Naturally, they laughed when they asked, and of course that set me laughing.
When I formed this apparently strange habit I was weighed down with sorrow, and
my rule simply lifted me out of it. I had suffered the most acute indigestion;
for years I have not known what it is. Headaches were a daily dread; for over
six years I have not had a single pain in the head. My home seems different to
me, and I feel a thousand times more interest in its work. My husband is a
changed man. My children are called 'the girls who are always laughing,' and,
altogether, my rule has proved an inspiration which has worked wonders."
The queen of fashion, however, says that we must never laugh out loud;
but since the same tyrannical mistress kills people by corsets, indulges in
cosmetics, and is out all night at dancing parties, and in China pinches up the
women's feet, I place much less confidence in her views upon the laugh cure for
human woes. Yet in all civilised countries it is a fundamental principle of
refined manners not to be ill-timed and unreasonably noisy and boisterous in
mirth. One who is wise will never violate the proprieties of well-bred people.
"Yet," says a wholesome writer upon health, "we should do something more
than to simply cultivate a cheerful, hopeful spirit - we should cultivate a
spirit of joyfulness that is not only easily pleased and smiling, but that
indulges in hearty, hilarious laughter; and if this faculty is not well marked
in our organisation we should cultivate it, being well assured that hearty,
body-shaking laughter will do us good."
Ordinary good looks depend on one's sense of humour, - "a merry heart
maketh a cheerful countenance." Joyfulness keeps the heart and face young. A
good laugh makes us better friends with ourselves and everybody around us, and
puts us into closer touch with what is best, and brightest in our lot in life.
Physiology tells the story. The great sympathetic nerves are closely
allied; and when one set carries bad news to the head, the nerves reaching the
stomach are affected, indigestion comes on, and one's countenance becomes
doleful. Laugh when you can; it is.
Merriment is a philosophy not well understood. The eminent surgeon
Chavasse says that we ought to begin with the babies and train children to
habits of mirth: -
"Encourage your child to be merry and laugh aloud; a good hearty laugh
expands the chest and makes the blood bound merrily along. Commend me to a good
laugh, - not to a little snickering laugh, but to one that will sound right
through the house. It will not only do your child good, but will be a benefit to
all who hear, and be an important means of driving the blues away from a
dwelling. Merriment is very catching, and spreads in a remarkable manner, few
being able to resist its contagion. A hearty laugh is delightful harmony,
indeed, it is the best of all music." "Children without hilarity." says an
eminent author, "will never amount to much. Trees without blossoms will never
Hufeland, physician to the King of Prussia, commends the ancient custom
of jesters at the king's table, whose quips and cranks would keep the company in
Did not Lycurgus set up the god of laughter in the Spartan eating halls?
There is no table sauce like laughter at meals. It is the great enemy of
How wise are the words of the acute Chamfort, that the most completely
lost of all days is the one in which we have not laughed!
"A crown, for making the king laugh," was one of the items of expense
which the historian Hume found in a manuscript of King Edward II.
"It is a good thing to laugh, at any rate," said Dryden, the poet, "and
if a straw can tickle a man, it is an instrument of happiness."
"I live," said Laurence Sterne, one of the greatest of English humorists,
"in a constant endeavour to fence against the infirmities of ill health and
other evils by mirth; I am persuaded that, every time a man smiles, - but much
more so when he laughs, - it adds something to his fragment of life."
"Give me an honest laugher," said Sir Walter Scott, and he was himself
one of the happiest men in the world, with a kind word and pleasant smile for
every one, and everybody loved him.
"How much lies in laughter!" exclaimed the critic Carlyle. "It is the
cipher-key wherewith we decipher the whole man. Some men wear an everlasting
barren simper; in the smile of others lies the cold glitter, as of ice; the
fewest are able to laugh what can be called laughing, but only sniff and titter
and snicker from the throat outward, or at least produce some whiffing, husky
laughing, as if they were laughing through wool. Of none such comes good."
"The power to laugh, to cease work and begin to frolic and make merry in
forgetfulness of all the conflict of life," says Campbell Morgan, "is a divine
bestowment upon man."
Happy, then, is the man, who may well laugh to himself over his good
luck, who can answer the old question, "How old are you?" by Sambo's reply:-
"If you reckon by the years, sah, I 'se twenty-five; but if you goes by
the fun I 's 'ad, I, guess I 's a hundred."
From the "Independent"